U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District

Baltimore — U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, the co-chair of a group of centrist Democrats, on Thursday criticized efforts by progressives to try to sideline centrist messages at the annual gathering of House Democrats.

“All human institutions – my marriage, the Ford Motor Company, the Democratic Caucus, the Roman Empire – they win and survive when they adapt, listen to lots of different points of view, challenge orthodoxies, invite people who think differently than they do into the conversation, and have a really robust conversation, said Himes. “That’s a winning organization.”

He said “a losing organization, in contrast … is one in which you are convinced that the orthodoxy is exactly right, and you shut down other points of view.” Himes is a co-chairman of a group of business-friendly House Democrats called the New Democrat Coalition.

Progressives protested the scheduled appearance of Jim Kessler, the senior vice president for policy of Third Way, a prominent centrist think tank, at the Democratic retreat on Wednesday.

Kessler says the Democratic Party needs to grow geographically, demographically and ideologically — not move decisively to the left — to regain power

“For House Democrats to seek advice from a Wall Street-funded think tank that preaches timidity, that shows them learning the exactly wrong lesson in the Trump era,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “I think Democrats need to fight more strongly, with backbone, and not let Trump steal the mantle of economic populism.”

Himes said the policy of exclusion is counterproductive.

“So, we bristle a little bit at the idea, that my gosh, that this person should not even be allowed in the room,” Himes said.

The retreat aimed at party unity and at agreeing to a strategy that would allow the battered Democratic Party to move forward after their electoral losses in the fall.

Some Democrats argued party members should work with President Donald Trump on infrastructure and other areas of common interests. But others vowed their only job is to resist the White House.

The Democrats began their retreat in Baltimore on Wednesday and will wrap up their meeting Friday afternoon.

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Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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